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A source for Bowers Studio updates, technique demonstrations and entries covering topics such as inspiration, career experience, preparing for publication, industry observations and whatever else seems appropriate at the time.
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Here’s a peek at my newest picture book.
|Sketch for cover design.|
|Detail of cover art in progress.|
I recently finished a new book, Pirate’s Lullaby- Mutiny at Bedtime, written by Marcie Wessels (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2015).
Here are a few early pics of the process…sketches, etc.
|Pencil sketches for pirate boy character.|
|Sketches for pirate dad character.|
|Very rough pirate heads for reference (super sculpey).|
|Pirate head in different positions and lighting.|
|More heads in different positions and lighting.|
|A final illustration spread with reference sheets.|
|Everything is started but a lot of painting ahead. Oil paint on canvas (acrylic underpainting).|
I can’t wait until next year’s Talk Like a Pirate Day.
I spent Saturday, in Cincinnati at the Books by the Banks 2014. Here is an overview of the event-
Books by the Banks: Cincinnati USA Book Festival is an annual celebration of books and reading that takes place every October in downtown Cincinnati. The day-long festival, which is free and open to the public, features national, regional, and local authors and illustrators; book signings; panel discussions; and activities for the entire family to enjoy.
It was a great day of book signing, seeing old friends and meeting new friends. There were kids with really cool looking painted faces. I almost jumped in line for a total face and head painting...but, changed my mind. When will I ever grow up?
Here are a few pics that were taken...
|This would be me and the great Marc Brown. Wow, this pic is a keeper!|
|I made two new very talented friends, Michelle Houts and Melissa Guion. Their table was filled with chocolate baseballs and penguins. And books, of course! |
Now, I'm back in the studio, coffee in hand, ready to paint some skunks and chipmunks...sure with I had a few of those chocolate baseballs.
...back to the brush.
Another school year is starting, which usually means that the classroom bully is back in business. This can put a damper on the school year for some unfortunate students. But, here are two examples of bravery that come to mind.
First, an illustration from my college days, illustrating the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a big bully, for sure.
|David and Goliath (or, Dave and John)|
This is an illustration that I painted, using my room-mates as models. They were both, excellent artists and good sports, when it came to posing for reference pictures. When an art student is pulling an all-night, last minute rush to complete something for class, class-mates become excellent reference material (many thanks to Dave Groff
and John Jude Palencar
for this one).
I'm not condoning violence or the sling shot response but it did work out pretty good for David. Nobody likes a bully.
The other example of bravery is Knuckleball Ned
, who stands up to the bullies and saves the day in one of my newest books, published by Dial Books for Young Readers
The story was written by R. A. Dickey
Overview:Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey creates a funny anti-bullying picture book with an adorable baseball character that kids will love
Ned the baseball is very nervous on his first day of school. Everyone else seems to know where they belong, but not Ned. He isn’t a fastball or a slider, and the Foul Ball gang makes fun of him for the way he wobbles. When they do something particularly dastardly to another student, it’s up to Ned to come to the rescue with his unique abilities. Not only does Ned realize he’s a knuckleball, but he discovers that he can be a hero, too!
|The Foul Ball gang.|
|Knuckleball Ned saves the day!|
So, here's to the little guy, the pushed around kid, the student who "wobbles"...
there's a brighter day, ahead. Be brave, be yourself and hang in there!
... (wobbling) back to the drawing board.
I just returned from a trip to a local store and saw aisles of Christmas stuff on display. IT'S AUGUST! What happened to Christmas...AT CHRISTMAS TIME? Is it me or is it way too early to start thinking of Christmas?? Way, way too early! Oh, wait a minute...
|Memoirs of an Elf by Devin Scillian, published by Sleeping Bear Press.|
A couple of packages were just delivered to my door. Wow! You'll never believe what was packed in those little boxes. Advance copies of my newest children's book!
|Texting: "Time to fly..."|
|Halfway around the world.|
It's never too early to think about books.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
It's that time of year, again. The first day of school starts this week for a lot of area schools. To get back in the groove, I'm reaching for my copy of Cool Dog, School Dog written by Deborah Heiligman.
I took a trip to the zoo last Sunday morning. I took my camera as usual, thinking that I'd get a few reference shots during the trip. The Columbus zoo is really nice but way too many people to see animals. What? Yep, the zoo is a very popular place but you should plan on getting there really early... maybe on a weekday, when the entire state of Ohio isn't lined up to see an animal. It's great to see so many people interested in wildlife...just not the right time for reference shots. Does anybody else have tips on their zoo visits? When is best? If you live in Ohio, which is your favorite?
|One of the wildest species, know to man. Is he climbing in or climbing out?|
I remember visiting the Cincinnati Zoo as a kid. Very nice zoo. I photographed a lot of animals during high school and did some drawing at that zoo, as a college student. Here are a few of them.
Have a wild week, kids!
Back to the drawing board.
Last weekend, I thought about going fishing. This is as close as I got, to a lake. Another miniature painting was started and I could almost smell the cool lake breeze, hear the water lapping against the boat and see the bobber, riding the ripples on the lake.
Anyway, my plan is to start several miniature paintings over the next month or so, then finish them as time allows. I really need to work hard to meet my miniature painting goals, for the year.
I did a few quick sketches of the cat characters and then went to a final painting. I've been adjusting the final drawing, as I go.
The first sketch on the board (above) was too human-like. The arms were too long and shoulders were too high. I was getting too far from cat-like bodies.
The arms still feel too long. I need to refine the proportions until they feel right. This was my weekend fishing trip...minus the fish...and the trip.
Oh, well. I might get out on the lake, next weekend.
I started another miniature painting over the weekend but had to put it on hold, for now. My newest children's book sketches have been revised and are waiting for approval. I'll start the final artwork, this week.
|The Call- background roughed in.|
Although the miniature work is small, the amount of time it takes to render the fine detail is as much or more than my bigger paintings.
|The Call- in progress.|
|The Call- main figure roughed in...detail, next.|
This fox will have to wait... The Call
is on hold.
Today, I'm starting another miniature painting. Here is a sketch for the newest idea.
|sketch for "The Call"|
My goal is to complete six miniatures, this year. This is the first chance in a long time, that I've had to work on these little gems. Monday, I'll get back to my newest children's book...pirates. I'll fill you in on that, later.
...now, back to the tiny brushes.
A sad day.
I just received some good news...and bad news. Last night, my Hot Licks Bluesfest poster design was approved (that's the good). This morning, I received the news, Johnny Winter had passed away (that's the bad), yesterday, in Switzerland. He was 70 years old.
I was really looking forward to meeting him. Johnny Winter was the first big concert (Hara Arena, Dayton, Ohio) that I attended in the mid-70's. I was in High School and his album, Still Alive and Well
was burnin' up the record player.
Prayers for the Winter family.Bluesfest
poster on hold.
I just finished the artwork for this year's Hot Licks Bluesfest. I took a few pics during the painting so that I could show the in progress stages.
First, I blocked in the shapes over my drawing with acrylic washes (skin areas and guitar) and painted in the shapes that I know were going to be very dark, almost black (sky, shirt and shoes).
Then, I started to add detail to the character's face, trying to capture the moon lighting.
From the face, I kept working outward, adding more detail to the hands and guitar. I kept the light source in mind and decided where and how it would hit each part of the image.
You can still see some of my pencil drawing under the acrylic washed areas.
After the hands and guitar are mostly completed with detail, I started to work out the affect of a second light source. The words- "HOT LICKS"(in bright orange-red) will be placed along the backside of the character.
Here, you can see the warm light hitting the hands, guitar neck and body, etc.
When most of the image was finished, I went back to the top area and added some stars and stylized steam, rising from the image.
Small detail was added, sweat on the player's face and warm light on the underside of his hat and ear. I love adding little touches like that to a piece...kind of an afterthought but it works.
Well, there you have it! I still need to work on the type...stay tuned!
|This year's idea sketches |
with the last two years artwork in the background.
It's that time of year, when I start thinking about creating the artwork for Granville's Hot Licks Bluesfest. This year, the headliners are: Johnny Winter and Rory Block, two super talented blues giants.
I found some really cool reference photos and started working with those, keeping as far from the exact photo as I could (I don't want to get a letter from some photographer's copyright attorney). I kept getting nowhere. The sketches were dull, something was missing. I wasn't getting what I wanted. It was driving me crazy. There were some "O.K." designs but this is the Hot Licks Bluesfest...O.K. wouldn't cut it!
Then, I realized that I was too focused on the reference photos. I kept forcing the poster design to conform to the pictures. They were preventing me from finding a great solution to the poster design.
I put everything away and started over, trying to capture an overall energy in the composition. After I got a descent design, I could find or construct some photo reference to support it. Plus, this wasn't suppose to be a Johnny Winter or Rory Block poster. It's a Hot Licks Bluesfest poster. Although I like to include something that relates to the headliner, it isn't a portrait.
Finally! I started to see something that I liked. The sketch on the left seemed a little too country. It's the Blues-fest...not Country-fest.
|Thumbnail (idea) sketches approx. 1.5 x 2.5 inches.|
Then, from the thumbnail sketch, I enlarged the design and blocked in the shapes
|Note to self: |
Remember to keep it simple. Focus on big shapes instead of detail.
Detail will come later.
Then it started to feel right. It had some energy. It had some burn and despair...it's the Blues, baby. And, I could finally stop singin' the Blues Poster Blues.
|Sketches were done on tracing paper so that I could refine the drawing and add more detail on each layer.|
|Final sketch, ready to submit for approval. |
The space along the left side is for sponsor logos.
So, I'm back on track...ready to get to it! This week, I start the final artwork.
I'll keep you posted.
I just received a beautiful BC Book Prize certificate from Canadian author, Dan Bar-el.
Dan wrote Not Your Typical Dragon
, which I illustrated for Viking Books. Our title was one of five "outstanding illustrated works for children", selected as a finalist for the Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize.
|Sketch for back cover of book.|
Thanks to Dan Bar-el
for a great story, Viking for bringing it to readers and the BC Book Prize
judges for selecting Not Your Typical Dragon
for this award.
I just returned from a book signing at the IRA 59th Annual Conference in New Orleans. Many thanks to my friends at Sleeping Bear Press. Amy and Audrie were in high gear to pull everything together during the show.
I finally met author, Denise Brennan-Nelson, who joined me to sign Maestro Stu Saves the Zoo. Denise is very funny and overflowing with great story ideas. I hope we connect on another book project in the future.
Before my book signing, I went undercover into the Scholastic Book area and managed to meet two of my Ninja brothers, Dav Pilkey and Dan Santat. Its pretty obvious that Dav and Dan have had more experience in Ninja action posing...I'll have to ask them for a few pointers.
The flight home was a bumpy ride. Storms were popping up all over but above the clouds was a beautiful place to be. I shot a few pics of the amazing clouds, escorting us back to Ohio.
Here is the latest children’s book project. I can’t say much about it but I will say that it involves a few elfies. I’ll explain, later.
You might guess the subject by the artwork, seen in my elfies….er, I mean selfies.
Let me be the very first to wish you a Merry Christmas, 2014.
More project updates, to come...
Ho-ho-ho…from the stu-di-o!
A new baseball season and a new children’s book….ahhh, spring is here. The first printed samples of Knuckleball Ned crossed home plate, this week. Knuckleball Ned by R.A. Dickey will take the mound in local bookstores, next month and I’m excited. Thanks to my friends at Dial for putting together a great team and Rubin Pfeffer at RPContent for catching such a great project for me. I tried to create artwork that was looser than my other books, a bit more splashy, with brighter color and loads of fun.
I worked on Crescent Premium Watercolor board with acrylic paint. Backgrounds were painted with broad colorful acrylic washes, then the characters were painted with more detail. Finally, the characters' baseball heads were masked and airbrushed to get a little more dimension.
|The baseball glove and ball were not part of the package...added for effect. :)|Dickey may be known for his pitching but I think he may have hit this one out of the park. Knuckleball Ned is a sure home run!
“R.A. Dickey is one of the coolest athletes I’ve ever met.” — George Vecsey, The New York Times
"Dickey, with an assist from Karounos, creates a sweet, sympathetic character and presents an earnest, heartfelt message." - Kirkus Reviews
"The clear, lively writing and nice pacing make this a good addition to the canon of antibullying books that make their point without being message driven. Bowers adds to the fun...his cartoon acrylic paint illustrations effectively capture Ned’s wobbliness and make the pages come alive with motion." - School Library Journal
My miniature painting, The Book Drop received the Best of Show award from the Miniature Art Society of Florida and will be included in the 39th Annual International Miniature Art Show.
Over 800 Works of Fine Art in Painting and Sculptures "In Little" from Around the World.
|The Book Drop-3.5"x4.5", acrylic on board. |
Four of my other paintings will also be hanging in the show, which opens next week at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center (1143 Michigan Boulevard, Dunedin, Florida 34698). The show opening is Sunday, January 19, 2014 (noon till 4:00) and will hang until February 9th.
Anyone in the Tampa area should stop by and check out the miniatures. Tiny works... real gems.
My son informed me that one of my books can be seen in the movie: Elf
. So we watched the movie, in search of the hidden Bowers book. FOUND IT!!
There, in the publisher’s office, on a shelf was a copy of a book that I had illustrated in 1993. It was a flat fee project that I received from artist agent, Suzanne Cruise
. I had a great time, working with Suzanne for a few years, illustrating a gazillion greeting cards and some small book projects. It was a quick job and I don’t list it with my other books but there it was, next to James Caan.
It’s a really funny movie and now, I have another reason to like the film.
Elf, starring Will Ferrell…and a Bowers book!
Today is the day that Snow Dog, Go Dog by Deborah Heiligman, hits the shelves. A very cool story with a very warm ending.
Published by Two Lions/Amazon Children's Publishing
The new 2013 Hot Licks Bluesfest poster is finished and on it's way to the printer.
|2013 Hot Licks Bluesfest poster|
I painted this one in acrylic (again) and wanted it to compliment a previous illustration, done for an earlier Bluesfest
poster. You can see that piece of art in the photo, on my easel. The main band for the night is Ruthie Foster. I used photos of Ruthie to inspire the design but I didn't want to create a portrait. I picked up on the dreadlocks, facial expression and style of guitar and used those in the artwork but didn't try to make an exact likeness of Ruthie Foster. I do that on every poster. Last year, my inspiration was Sean Carney...and so on.
I can't wait until September 7th, when the blues blows into Granville, Ohio. It's a great night of music.
I can hear it from my house but it's better when you are with hundreds of other blues fans, in the heart of the village. My folding chair is packed and waiting.
...I'll save you a spot.
I've recently taken an interested in miniature painting. It's challenging to paint in such a small format but the history, techniques and community associated with painting "in little" has been extremely interesting and fun.
|The Book Drop, size- 3.5"x 4.5"|
This is my first painting. It was painted in acrylic on Bristol board. The superimposed penny was added to give the viewer a sense of scale. Much of the painting was done under a magnifying glass, which is how gallery patrons are encouraged to view the original artwork. The paint brushes that I used, vary in size but most often, a size 000 or smaller was used. I've painted small images in the past (many 5"X7" paintings for Hallmark) but this takes "small" to a different level.
Guidelines have been established for the creation of miniature paintings, as follows:-Minute in scale vs. life-sized. For practicality following the general 1/6th scale for my work sent to formal miniature exhibitions and shows.
-Delicate and painstaking technique that withstands magnification.
-Small in format and size. 25 inches or less for surface area.
-High in quality. The work should exemplify Fine Art ~ demonstrating a mastery of composition, color, values etc.
For more information about miniature painting, visit:http://www.art-in-miniature.org/
|Plein Air Bear, size-5"x4"|
This will be an adventure...a very "small" adventure. And as Jim, a fellow miniature artist says, "let's paint!"
|Knuckleball Ned cover |
This pitch won’t cross the plate until next year but my newest title, Knuckleball Ned by R.A. Dickey will be published in 2014 (Dial).
R. A. Dickey is a starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2012, he became the first knuckleball pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. This was a fun book to work on, R.A. Dickey is a very decent guy (very good with a baseball and a story) so this should be a home run, early next year. I can't wait!
I’m only showing a few images, now… more to come in early 2014.
|Knuckleball Ned character sketches|
This is where we started. First, the main characters in the story were developed as pencil sketches.
Then I plug them into the story. The final artwork was created with acrylic paint (washes) and a little air-brush work on the character's heads to get that baseball roundness.
So, even though R.A. didn't make the playoffs, this year...he's got a real winner hitting the shelves, early next year!
No, really… it’s my desk. I’ve had this desk since I was a boy, growing up in Troy, Ohio. I was a very average student with a very below average attention span. My grades forced Mom and Dad to set a “study time” for me in the evening, after school. I think the idea was good but even seated at the “study” desk, my mind wandered.
One night, my thoughts must have wandered from my school work to my wood burning set. You can guess what happened, next. The study desk became my new wood burning project. I only got as far as my initials in the corner…the burning wood smell must have tipped off my parents and that was the end of the new project.
I’m not sure what happened to the wood burning set but my grades stayed in the average to below average range…. except for art class.
Here’s an early example of my drawing. This says it all. I’m thinking of ideas (obviously…there’s a light bulb above my head!). Notice, that I’m sitting on a chair without a desk… not sure why.
Well, back to the drawing board. Hey, there’s my new wood-burning set.
I'm watching some football on this rainy Saturday afternoon and it's half-time, so...
I thought that I'd post a football image. Makes sense, right?
Back in the 1980's, while working for Hallmark (Kansas City), a group of us traveled to the University of Kansas to hear a presentation by the art director from Sports Illustrate
d. The SI
art assignments were amazing. I remember a story about an artist that was sent to some remote island to cover some kind of a canoe race...or something. Sports Illustrated
sent artists all over the world to create sport images for the magazine. It was very inspiring, so I returned to Kansas City to created a sport themed portfolio but I only finished the first piece of artwork. This was it.
The world of editorial illustration has changed over the years...I don't think those round-the-world trips are as common as they used to be. Especially for the artists. Well, half time is over so I'm headin' back to the T.V.
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It's that time of year when we plan a trip to the local pumpkin patch. That reminded me of an illustration, done in 2009 for Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Here is the rough idea sketch, the final sketch and the final oil painting from that assignment.
|rough idea sketch|
|final pencil sketch|
|finished oil painting|
So, if you are thinking of picking up a pumpkin, be very careful
....says a certain little chipmunk.
...back to the drawing board.